Candy, candy, candy

Halloween is a fun time of the year. Here in the Bay area, people tend to take it very seriously. I’m sure if you’re from here or if you’ve at least visited, you’ve glimpsed at the crowds of bike riders rolling along Market Street in their Halloween best. This year, I saw a head of lettuce in green leggings on his bike, followed by a ghost, a skeleton, and someone with lots of big red hair.

Although Halloween is always a good excuse to inhale every kind of candy invented, what’s left over in packaging is not. This year, I spent a lot of time looking at the empty plastic bags that had held all those bits of chocolate and nuts that we happily sprinkled into the little hands of trick or treaters.

Candy wrappers

The thin but strong plastic material used in the packaging of many consumer products beyond Halloween candy is incredibly hard to recycle. This is in part because of its chemical properties of the plastic, and in part because of the relatively low volume of material collected and its small mass. Once a year, however, this material becomes visible to us watching what goes into our trash cans. The question that this specific type of material brings up is at the crux of Recology’s work: what can we do with the excess materials we work so hard to produce and so easily consume as a society?

Recology has already pioneered food waste, yard waste, and more traditional recycling programs that are only now being replicated across the U.S. We will continue to lead the way in recovering materials whose next best use is serving as the valuable inputs to other processes and products. I look at the piles of one-time-use materials that have for so long been bound for the landfill, and can’t help but think of the other possibilities. In a place as creative as the costumes we think up once a year, we can find another use for materials that would otherwise sit burried in a kind of limbo for an indefinite amount of time.

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